Building self-esteem in children

Building self-esteem in children
starts from the day that they're born.

In fact, the first six months of life
have been shown to be very important

in terms of setting up the
neurobiological chemistry of the brain.

The parent acts
as a mirror to the child at this age

so the information the child is getting
about themselves as a very young infant

is coming directly from their parent
or caregiver's face.

Self-esteem is important
because it gives us an opportunity

to show our talents,
to show what we're good at in life

and to expect from other people
a certain reaction.

If we have negative self-esteem

we expect others
to always see us as failing

and as not being very good at things.

If we have a positive sense
of self-esteem,

we like the way that we are

and the way that we interact
with the world.

Probably the most important thing
you can do

to build self-esteem in your children
is to praise them at every opportunity.

As a rough guide,

you need to be saying at least
six positives for each negative comment

in order for your child to develop
a healthy sense of themselves.

Another very important thing is to
remember lots of demonstrative love

for your child.

This is even on occasions
when they're not achieving

and not doing anything
particularly clever.

Ridiculing and shaming your child
is a very dangerous thing to do.

We obviously need to get a balance.

We need to allow children to understand
when they're doing something wrong

and there are going to be occasions
when you need to criticise a behaviour,

but there's something distinctly
different about shaming your child.

Other important things
to remember to do as a parent

are to talk, to listen, to play
and to laugh with your child.

Children need to spend time
telling you about their day,

telling you about the things
that have gone right

and the things that have gone wrong

and you need to be open and have time
to listen to those kind of comments.

I think there is a fine line between
making your child very arrogant

and making your child
have high self-esteem.

And there are cultural differences in
the way that different groups of people

approach praising their child.

I think a child needs
to have an opportunity

to find out what they're good at

and a parent's job, and a school's job
is to celebrate those achievements.

At the same time, a child isn't going
to be good at everything

and I think if you bombard children
with the message

that they need to be good at everything,

and they are quite all-rounders,
that can lead to arrogance.

So I think there is a fine line to play

but I don't think
parents should shy away

from celebrating achievement
in children.

It's vitally important to self-esteem.

Children with high self-esteem
tend to demonstrate

that they can handle strong emotions
much better

than children with low self-esteem.

This also stands them in good stead
to develop good, positive relationships

both with family and friends

and, later on, developing
good relationships in adult life.

Children who have a low self-esteem

tend to blame others
for any kind of failures in life

and have a tendency
to get quite angry about things.

They will struggle with
dealing with strong emotions

and tend to shy away
from new experiences.

They will also struggle to make
relationships with other children

because that will present a challenge,
and might get involved in bullying.

Schools should work to encourage
children in a positive way

and lots of schools
use very positive ways

of celebrating
children's different achievements.

It's really important that you find
a school for your child

that you feel comfortable
that they do that

because if your child's getting
a different message from a nursery

or a different caregiver or a teacher,

that they will be shamed
if they make a mistake,

and their successes aren't recognised,

then that can also have an effect
on the child's long-term self-esteem.

If, for quite a long period of time,
your child's been showing signs

that we've discussed
that might indicate low self-esteem,

the first port of call is to go to
the GP to discuss your concerns,

and the GP will be able to refer you,
if they feel that that's necessary,

to the local Child and Adolescent
Mental Health Service.

Here your child will have an opportunity

to talk about what's going on
and how they're feeling.

Building a healthy sense of self-esteem
in your child,

it's never too late to start doing that.

Children at any age or stage

will benefit from lots of praise,
lots of attention,

a sense that you appreciate what they do
and what they bring to life.

So it's really important
that throughout childhood

and indeed adulthood,

we celebrate achievements
and provide unconditional love.